Have you ever wondered what it would be like to travel to Romania?
Often when you think of travelling to Europe, you have your expectations of romanticism, discovery, scenery, or culture.
Would you expect the same experience of travelling to Romania?
Can you see yourself sipping your Aperol spritz, a glass of rosé or a centuries-old beer?
But to travel further east to Romania, Bulgaria, or Serbia, you can find yourself thinking:
- Is it safe
- Language barriers
- Communist architecture
- What about the accommodation
- How safe are the roads
- Will the people be friendly
At least when visiting countries like Germany or Belgium, you already have a comfortable “feel” of what to expect, see and experience.
Romania, however, is a unique experience. It is a varied country where the real travel experience will challenge you.
And if your visit is only to Bucharest, you are depriving yourself of seeing more of this diverse country, Romania.
15 Best Things to Do in Romania
Each region in Romania is unique. To prepare your travel guides for Romania, make sure to include any of these 12 places to visit in Romania.
And of course, there are more beautiful places in northern Romania like the Blue Monasteries or the painted cemetery that can always be added for a trip to Romania.
But remember, for any Romania travel:
- many of the roads are still a “work in progress.”
- trains and buses are not as frequent
- driving takes way longer than Google recommends
1. Enjoy Bucharest Nightlife
Bucharest (or Bucharesti) has a vibrant old town. There is a mix of historical buildings, orthodox churches, and art nouveau buildings.
To try Romanian traditional food, we loved Restaurant Hanu’ lui Manuc in its garden atmosphere. But we also loved the Oktoberfest Pub, for a traditional meat platter with a beer. Fabulous.
But the highlight of Bucharest would be finishing the evening with the creamiest ice cream from Cremeria Emilia.
As well as the colourful city fountains along Boulevard Unirii lit each evening.
However, one place not to miss is the Palace of the Parliament at the end of the boulevard.
2. Book a visit to the Palace of the Parliament
At the top of Boulevard Unirii is the imposing Palace of the Parliament, the heaviest building in the world, built with the labour of Romanians for the ego of Nicolae Ceaușescu.
You can book a visit to the Palace of the Parliament at the right-side entrance of the building front for tours in English throughout the day.
(Bring a form of identification and allow 1.5 hours for the guided tour.)
You will be amazed by the opulence, varying architectural designs and detail; you’ll find your camera is always clicking.
Take time to look up to see two incredibly large chandeliers in the staterooms. And enjoy the view from the balcony at the front of the building.
Your guide will probably also recommend you make the trip to Peles Castle.
3. View the Beauty of Peles Castle
Peles Castle was commissioned by King Carol I in 1873 as his summer residence because of its spectacular views of the Carpathian mountains.
The alpine architectural design, similar to Schloss Neuschwanstein in Germany, was chosen for the exterior. But once you’re inside, the opulence shows an exquisite palatial interior.
Tickets to visit Peles Castle or nearby Pelisor Castle (built for the King’s heir) can be purchased at either castle in cash (Romanian Leu). This way, you can see the exquisite palatial interior, enjoy one of the many fountains, and wander through the gardens.
The castles are near the town of Sinaia, 140 km from Bucharest (Via the Autostrada) or 48 km from Brasov, making it a perfect stop to break your journey and stay overnight.
4. Walk to the Brasov sign or take the easy option
Brasov is a medieval town in central Romania. The Council Square, with its Rathus, now the history museum, lined with restaurants, cafes and shops are, always buzzing with activity.
And one thing you can’t miss is the Brasov sign above the old town.
You can either walk up the zig-zag path or take the cable car. Viewing places are on the walk to see Weaver’s Bastion, the Citadel, and the Black Church.
The magnificent gothic Black Church (built in 1383) will grab your attention because of its height and width. But after the fire of 1689, the interior is now baroque.
In the old town, you can walk through old fortification gates like Catherine’s Gate or the very narrow street, only 111-135cm in width, near the Neolog Synagogue.
Make sure you queue for Gelato Mania. Truly delicious ice cream made on the premises with plenty of flavours to entice your taste buds.
The Brasov tourism office has lots of information for day trips from Brasov, including the UNESCO Fortified Church of Prejmer, Rasnov Fortress, Bran Castle and a bear sanctuary.
5. Go to Dracula’s Castle in Transylvania
If you love the book or the film Dracula, written by the Irish writer Braham Stoker, Bran Castle must be on your Romania travel list.
Is there a real Dracula Castle?
Bran Castle was built as a fortress to protect the Transylvanian border, so it’s incredible to think it may hide the secrets of vampires. Well, at least in the daytime, it’s not so scary to visit.
Bran Castle is 30kms from Brasov with a 40 Leu (€8.50) entrance fee for adults. If you visit in October, you can combine the experience with the Dracula Film Festival in Brasov.
And on the way to Bran Castle from Brasov is the fortress of Rasnov. Look for the Rasnov (a Hollywood sign) and take the cable car to the spectacular fortress.
Or maybe you’re more curious about where you can see bears in Romania.
6. See Bears up close at Libearty
Libearty Bear Sanctuary Zarnesti has over 70 previously caged bears enjoying 70 hectares of oak and hazel forest where they can live in natural surroundings.
Because it is a sanctuary, not a zoo, you can only visit with a tour guide from Tuesday to Sunday (mornings only) for one hour. The weekend price is more than on weekdays.
Photos are allowed with a cell phone, but there is a Leu50 (€10) charge to use a camera.
There is plenty of free parking available, although the access road is rocky and dusty during dry periods.
However, an extraordinary experience when you travel to Romania is to drive the famous Romanian Transfagarasan Road.
7. Drive the Transfagarasan Road Romania
Romania boasts two picturesque roads to drive:
Transfagarasan is open from late June to the end of October, a road stretching 90 km across the southern Carpathian Mountains at the height of 2,042 meters. The road was built between 1970-1974 in case of a Soviet military invasion, using 6 million kgs of dynamite.
As you wind up to the peak at Balea Lake, you will find freedom campers enjoying the views and fresh mountain air. And we found travelling from Brasov; the roads were not as busy.
At the top of the road is where the topography from Balea Lake or Balea Tunnel (the longest tunnel in Romania at 884m) provides spectacular views.
But maybe before the Transfagarasan experience, you could plan to see more of the medieval Romanian towns of Sighisoara or Sibiu.
8. Wander through Medieval Sighisoara
Sighisoara’s old town is a UNESCO world heritage site built by Saxon settlers in the 12th century.
The town has two parts:
- The old fortified city (also known as the citadel) with cobblestone streets (exceptionally large stones) and brightly painted houses
- The lower town along the Tarnava Mare river
Stop at the history museum as you pass through the Clock Tower of the Citadel. Vlad the Impaler (aka Dracula) was born here in 1431.
And find the covered walkway of 176 steps up to the St. Nicolae Church for more views over Sighisoara.
Or you could visit the old town of Sibiu instead.
9. Stay One Night in Sibiu
Sibiu was also a settlement of Saxon settlers whose craftsmen and merchants built fortifications in the middle ages.
And like Sighișoara, there is a lower and upper town, separated by staircases.
Piata Mare (town square) is where you’ll find restaurants, festivals and people soaking up the atmosphere.
Maybe you want to wander the famous Strada Nicolae Balcescu for its beautiful houses or see the interior beauty of the Orthodox Cathedral.
However, it’s the Bridge of Lies that will intrigue you. It has ears and creaks when it knows someone is lying. So beware.
If you need some sea air, then Constanta on the Black Sea is the place to stay.
10. Swim the Black Sea at Constanta
A popular beach resort in Romania is Constanta, where families flock to the area to swim, make sandcastles or hire a lounger to soak up the sun. The water is warm and the beach sandy, so ideal for swimming.
We didn’t like the floating bits of green seaweed, an enormous jellyfish shaped like a football and the oil refinery at the end of the beach.
Yes, we were feeling a little “precious,” so we swam for a while and then soaked up some sunshine.
Nearby are the National History and Archaeology Museum and the Great Mahmudiye Mosque with its tall minaret. Travelling along the eastern coast of Romania will learn more about the Roman and Byzantine eras.
Getting to Constanta from Bucharest:
- A2 motorway
If driving, you must purchase a vignette to cross the Fetesti and Cernavoda Bridges from a fuel stop near the bridge unless you want to queue at the toll gate. If returning the same route, you can buy two vignettes, as the vignettes are valid for a year.
However, if you are interested in fauna and wildlife, book a stay near the Danube Delta.
11. Find Pelicans at the Danube Delta
Our Romanian friends Costa and Diana had often talked about the beauty of the Danube Delta.
For nature lovers or photographers, the Danube Delta is a must-see in Romania.
Our accommodation at Pensiunea Clisciova, Murighiol, was a small cottage with a shared outdoor kitchen and dining area. And as we love to interact with travellers, we chatted with a Romanian family who had booked an evening boat tour of the Delta.
Would we like to join them? Yes, of course.
The three-plus hours was a boat ride through small waterways to estuaries full of birdlife. Our cameras were busy when we saw the giant Pelicans gathered in the setting sun — what a memory.
However, we had to laugh at an unexpected stop in the middle of the delta while our skipper got out his fishing rod and caught a fish before we headed back to shore. Classic.
12. Walk along the Danube of Braila
Braila wasn’t originally on our itinerary of Romania. But we chose Braila with a few nights to fill before meeting Maura’s brother Joe in Bucharest.
Braila Port was a strategically important part of the Danube, and during the late 19th century and the early 20th century, the city flourished. As you wander the streets of the old city, it is when you see lots of art nouveau buildings.
In the evenings, take a walk along the Danube river promenade, with its quaint pop-up shops, restaurants and evening river cruises.
And the not to be missed colourful fountains “Fantana Cinetica” spectacular every evening.
13. Unique Experience of Huedin
When driving from Oradea to Cluj-Napoca, roadworks in Huedin had us stopping unexpectedly.
What was with all these unique houses?
They had turrets, broad verandahs, multiple balconies, colourful tiles, arched windows, columns, colours, decorations, and more.
The artistic flair of each house appeared in a few streets near the main road, so we had to stop and admire these ornate houses.
Some were finished, others a work in progress, and a few looked abandoned. And here we saw plenty of beautiful, colourful skirts worn by young ladies.
14. Look for Horse and Carts in villages
Our road trip travelling from west to east Romania opened our eyes to the many aspects of a diverse country.
You have to love the unusual things you find when travelling in Romania.
15. Stop often along the roads
When travelling through Romania’s countryside, you can’t help but stop often.
We found haystacks, or are they for feeding livestock?
We saw the milking cow being grazed on the grass of the village. Herds of water buffalo as we travelled. But the horses grazing on the grass verge of a provincial city brought a smile.
We wondered why rubbish bins were nailed to the front of fences in the small villages. But marvel at the storks nesting high up on power poles.
And stooped to watch a herdsman tending his large flock of goats at a reservoir.
Things to Know before you Travel Romania
Having English speakers available in tourist offices and restaurants in the main tourist areas will put you at ease.
But as we say, it’s always respectful to try and speak the basics:
- Hello – Salut
- Good morning – Buna dimineata
- Good evening – Buna Seara
- Thank you – Multumesc
- Yes – Da
- No – Nu
ATMs are widely available (we use the app MapsMe to locate them).
You can use Credit cards (touch and go) for most purchases, except for local markets and some small stores.
Accommodation can vary from €20 per night in Oradea for an Airbnb to €40 per night for Hotel Belvedere in Braila.
Oh, and sometimes the accommodation can have bathrooms with a curtainless shower on top of the toilet!
Is Romania Expensive?
The local currency is the Romanian Leu which equals about 1 Leu to Euro.25c.
Restaurants vary on your budget, but generally, dishes can start from €5 upwards, and beer is always refreshing and cheap.
Bread or pastries are also reasonably priced for a quick breakfast.
You’ll be intrigued, like us in Brasov, when we place our order through a small window. You point to your favourites displayed behind the glass and then indicate how many you want to buy.
ATMs are available at banks, usually in the main squares.
Visa Requirements for Romania Travel
Romania is not part of the Schengen agreement, but European Union citizens can enter with a valid passport or identity card.
iVisa, an online service, is available to check whether you need a visa to travel to Romania.
iVisa website is easy to use. You enter your passport-issued country and press enter. You are told whether you need to apply for a visa within a minute.
If you do, iVisa can organize it all online for you.
How to Travel Romania
Seeing people waiting at bus stops and hitchhiking from villages (yes, even little old ladies) didn’t give us much faith in the local buses. Maybe the trains are more reliable.
The best website for train and bus timetables is Romania Travel and Tourism. It has lots of information on routes, types of tickets, and general information on Romanian trains.
But the most popular way to see Romania, especially in remote places, is to hire a car.
Romanian Roads are a Real Education
How often have you heard the comments of people encountering Italian drivers?
Or the craziness of the roads in Vietnam?
When you come from countries where better driving skills are the norm, you will need an open mind to drive on Romanian roads. (Don’t expect the roads to be at the standard of Germany.)
Hiring a rental car is probably a better option than using your vehicle. This way, the rental vehicle company has to organize a wheel alignment and maybe new shock absorbers.
And make sure the rental car is from a reputable brand like Europcar (not Optima Car Rental in Bucharest) for a better customer experience.
Driving through Romania, you’ll see motorways under construction; most of the time, you will be driving on narrow two-lane roads with surfaces that need repair.
Although we did find the roads in eastern Romania of better quality than in western Romania, we found some of the Romanian drivers are “crazy.”
- Passing on blind corners
- Stopping randomly on the edge of a road for a smoke
- Speeding through small towns and villages
- Tailgating when driving at the recommended speed
Combine this with poor road surfaces, which means you must allow more time than Google Maps recommends.
So make sure to add extra days into your Romania itinerary if only to recover from a day’s driving experience.
How many days should I spend in Romania?
There is one thing that Romania offers the traveller is its diversity.
A starting point would be to spend seven days in central Romania. But if you want to stay longer, you seriously want to consider Slow Travel to stay longer.
If your interest is nature, then the Danube Delta is one of the must-sees in Romania. But if the book Dracula interests you, visit Bran Castle.
You have medieval towns, monasteries, blue-painted monasteries, old German towns, the Roma people, and stunning scenery.
To get started, here are some places to discover more about Romania.
Romania Border Crossing for Hungary
If you are arriving from Hungary, expect to drive straight to Romania. But if you are leaving Romania for Hungary, expect a long queue for the border check.
Our only stop when entering Romania was at a little shack to buy a Romanian road vignette (toll), compulsory for motorways or any road accessing a motorway.
To purchase an e-vignette, click here.
Romania Border Crossing for Bulgaria
This border crossing was also straightforward, but the queue was long for vehicles arriving from Bulgaria for Romania.
You can purchase an e-vignette for Bulgaria here.
European Border Crossings (with a Vehicle)
You will need:
- Passport (with six months validity)
- Visa (if required, use iVisa)
- Driver Licence
- Car registration
- Car insurance (green card)
And like any road trip, you’ll always find some unknown thing to see. Our unique experience in Romania was the houses of Huedin.
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What more is there to see in Romania?
A trip for another time would be to travel to the north near the Ukraine and Moldova borders.
The village of Sapanta in Maramures is famous for its Merry Cemetery, where the blue-painted crosses record their life story.
And nestled in the foothills of the Carpathians, in the county of Moldavia, are eight painted Orthodox monasteries, all UNESCO heritage sites.
Check out this First Time Visitors Guide in Romania.
Wrapping up Travel Romania
So, how are you feeling about travelling to Romania?
Can you see yourself travelling to this diverse country, maybe by planning your Romanian road trip or mixing it up and booking some tours?
When you fly into the capital of Bucharest, exploring the city on foot will get you out and about to see the local landmarks, try some of the Romanian food and hear the language.
You can get a complete self-guided city walk for Bucharest here.
So, the first step is to check for flights to Romania from another European city you may be visiting. Or an alternative is to take the train from Budapest in Hungary.
For accommodation, you can use either Bookings.com, Hotels.com or Airbnb.
For a rental car, book with Europcar to explore the village life of Romania.
If it’s time for a change for your next European adventure, then the diversity and unique aspects of Romanian travel are a refreshing travel destination.